Why I love Leith

Any day now I'm going to be on the front cover of The Leither magazine. Yes - in my Trans-ish self.

Since returning to Leith earlier this year - and since coming out as a kind of Trans - almost every day I've been stopped by someone wishing me well on my journey. I must confess though, to some jitters at the thought of imminent piles of the bloody magazine in outlets across the Port, but hey - I asked for it. 

Its difficult to put your finger on what is so special about Leith. I think of it sometimes as 'Edinburgh's Glasgow'. Because we are like Glaswegians. Last year when I was coming out gingerly in Bruntsfield on the city up the hill, in the main I was passed by people staring at their mobiles. But other than that it was that 'you'll have had your tea' polite invisibility. Yes necks would strain on passing buses and the odd white van nearly ran into the car in front. One much older man (being my age I need to be careful about my oldie descriptions) nearly lost his footing and needed to be calmed by his wife. But other than the odd smile, and an imagined 'tut', it was a bit of a non-event. 

But here in the Port, the roughest-as-fuck Leither has thrown their arms round me and showered me with compliments. Yes indeed, drink was often a not insignificant component, but the next day a big hungover smile would great me as I passed them in more traditional off-to-work clothing. I haven't been out in Glasgow yet, and the thought does scare me, triggering as it does my early 13 year old's story - (see my blog - My Journey). But one day, I'm sure. I'm certainly getting enough encouragement from friends out West.

But we in Leith are not Edinburgh's anything. We are Leith. A burgh, who in 1920 had its own MP, its own trams system (a sore point these days), its own police force, town hall, theatre, school board, hospital, water board. In fact, debatably, more power in the Port than the present day Scottish parliament has over the whole of the country. All that independence until the infamous and rigged plebiscite incorporated us into Edinburgh's imperial ambitions. But more of that another day, as the centenary of that fateful event looms. 

They say that history is written by the victors. Well I don't know about that. Not here in Leith anyway. About 10 days ago an event happened in the history of Leith that needs to be told. It was the closing down weekend of the iconic, eccentric and purely Leith phenomenon of the Port of Leith bar on Constitution Street; soon to become yet another venison burger wine bar. Two nights of partying, with a trip to Hampden in between, where sadly we played and sang Aberdeen off the park - but lost. But that didn't damper the other worldly momentus-ness of those wild and tearful two nights in the Port. 

On the Friday night I teetered along the cobbled streets in my kilty Totty Rocks outfit to the Palace. Yes the home of Mary Moriarty; Queen of Leith. Although she has not run the pub for some years now, she is for the Port the pure class that turned that wee haven of a pub into the heartbeat of Leith. So once she had donned her fur coat (hoping people would assume it is fake - which it most certainly isn't), I escorted her down the road, each of us watching our balance in very different foot attire - and Mary reminiscing of the times when she too could enjoy a killer heel to show off her fine pins. 

The paparazzi were waiting. A young photographer, Ryan Buchanan, shot some beauties that will form an exhibition in our own Leith Festival in June. One gobsmaking pic will stay in the memory of all who were there. Mary sitting on a 'throne' at the doorway with black clad bouncers standing threateningly either side, as Mary crossed her legs, pulled down her shades, and took a long pouted drag on her ciggie. The Godmother had arrived. 

The next night was even busier. After a quick costume change after my Hampden day out - a skimpy leapord skin number this time - I arrived to a long queue of eager would be revellers. My heart sunk as the line 'do you know who I am' seemed to cut no ice with the change of guard outside from the previous night. But thanks to Jill, the magnificent successor to Mary, I was bustled inside to a chorus of Edinburgh tuts in the background.

Amongst numerous other things, it's the music and the dancing that make the Port. Alex, the dj for the last 20 years has such an intuitive feel for the right song. After the dual anthems of Sunshine on Leith and Always look on the bright side of life, and five more choruses of 'one more tune', she brought the tear drenched night to an end with Hey Jude. Not a dry eye in the house, not a person left un-hugged, and not a seat left without someone dancing their heart outtop of it. I looked around and the ceiling seemed to have shrunk. Flailing arms and heads nearly bouncing off it, and all the men (nearly literally) stripped to the waiste. Or I think that's where they were stripped to. 

And so the Port is now closed. The next night I went for a walk with my dog and passed the door. It was such a poingent moment. All lit up in its scarlet glory, but the doors were padlocked. Like a flood lit memorial to a by gone age, less that 24 hours after so many people had lost their haven. Leith needs yet another quinoa, duck confit, cappuccino and spritzer bar for Edinburghers on a night out on the colourful side of town, like it needs a poke in the eye with a Jambo. Uncharacteristicly for me, I don't wish the new owners well.